Growing number of US officials believe al-Qaeda is finished
April 15, 2013 15 Comments
By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An increasing number of government officials in the United States believe that al-Qaeda is no longer a serious threat to the homeland and are turning their attention to the next chapter of America’s security posture. Citing American defense and intelligence insiders, The Los Angeles Times claims that the militant Islamist group has been virtually decimated following more than a decade of relentless pursuit by Washington. So extensive is al-Qaeda’s operational devastation, they say, that US intelligence agencies can no longer discern any meaningful operational structure at the group’s core. Aside from its reputed leader, Egyptian physician Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a handful of others, no senior al-Qaeda lieutenant is believed to be alive. For over four years, the group’s commanders have been killed by the Central Intelligence Agency almost as soon as they have been identified, claims the paper. Al-Qaeda’s collapsing structure has led to an inevitable process of decentralization, which has rendered its surviving senior leadership virtually irrelevant to the global Islamist movement. Instead, a host of al-Qaeda-inspired factions have assumed the role of torchbearer, operating in far-flung locations such as Iraq, Syria, Mali, Yemen and Somalia. However, says The Times, these groups are motivated by strictly local issues and have neither the ability nor the will to mount large-scale attacks on American targets. The article quotes former US Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Rosa Brooks as saying: “to the best of our information, there is nobody out there with both the desire and the capabilities to cause any serious damage to the US in any way at this moment”. As a result, US intelligence agencies, led by the CIA, have scaled back their covert-action programs against al-Qaeda, including so-called ‘signature strikes’ by unmanned drones. As the CIA is faced with calls to limit its covert-action programs and return to traditional intelligence collection, many American officials are turning their attention to the next chapter in Washington’s security posture. Speaking to The Times, one former official, Shawn Brimley, who until 2012 was Director for Strategic Planning at the US National Security Council, poses the question: “what does a sustainable counter-terrorism policy look like for the next phase?”. One possible answer was provided a few days ago by the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, who told Congress that attention should now be turned to “lone wolves [and] domestic extremists” inside the United States.